In 1962, while serving in the Western States Mission, Becky Reeve (BS ’74) was involved in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down. She went from a life as a typical college-sophomore-turned-missionary to a life that was completely alien to her. The paralysis affected her internal organs, breathing, and blood pressure, and damaged nerves produced pain in her hips and lower back. She would faint every time she tried to sit up. The doctor told her she’d live only 15 or 20 years.
Now 54 years later, Reeve says she has had “to walk by faith, relying every minute of every hour of every day on the goodness and mercy of God.”
Reeve recalls how her total dependence and the brutal emotional toll of being incapacitated left her with “hundreds, even thousands, of long, lonely hours to just think and ponder.” She says, “I soon learned that to survive I must positively control my mind or else negative thoughts would destroy me.”
She relied on her family and others she believes the Lord “raised up” to help her. “Without missing even one day, someone has been there to help me make it through the night, provide clean clothes and bedding, bathe me, dress me, lift me out of bed, place me back in bed, care for my personal needs, fix my meals, clean the house, take me places, and help me in every possible way,” she says.
Reeve determined to stay positive and focused, and after a special stake fast and a blessing from her patriarch that promised she would stand on her feet again, she began to see incremental progress as she combined her faith and mental toughness. “I had traditional therapy three times a week for 23 years until my health began to fail,” she says. “But I hadn’t learned how to walk. I was throwing my feet out in front of me, but my arms were doing all the work. And then the Lord opened a new door for me. I joined the Sit Tall Stand Tall Program, working with strength trainer Leighton Weber in Provo.”
“I had to train my muscles again,” Reeve says. But then she adds, with great satisfaction, “At Leighton’s we did stuff we never did in traditional therapy. I experienced a great improvement in my health and strength. After working 30 years in the program, I could stand in leg braces and take steps with limited help. I remained so healthy I am up 13 hours a day.”
Her spiritual and physical awakening made her more ambitious, and in time she graduated from BYU in human development and family relations with an elementary-school teaching certificate, even though finishing the last two years of school took her eight. She student-taught in first grade, and laughs now as she recalls how “those kids absolutely loved my wheelchair.”
She calls her BYU degree one of her most important life accomplishments. “I love BYU so much,” she says. “I couldn’t even cross campus without tears coming to my eyes.” She recalls that, “when I went out there on the stage at graduation there was a standing ovation for me. And I wrote 500 thank-you notes to the people who helped me make it there.”
Despite her struggles, Reeve has served in major church callings, been a motivational speaker, authored and illustrated several books, and inspired and encouraged many others through her devotion to her family and the Lord. She says, “the Spirit knows no handicap, and you can trust the Lord.”